Shooting Spree Suspect Stands Before Judge

Queens Chronicle | Your Community Newspaper

(Ellis Kaplan) Matthew CollettaThe Woodhaven suspect authorities believe was behind a deadly six hour bullet barrage seven weeks ago was arraigned last Thursday morning during a brief court appearance.

Standing in a green sweatshirt and a pair of gray sweatpants before Judge Robert Hanophy, Matthew Colletta, 34, coolly listened to a grand jury's 57 count indictment brought against him after being transported to Kew Gardens Supreme Court from Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital Center. Defense attorney Todd Greenberg entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client, who faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

One man was killed, while two others sustained non life threatening bullet wounds during the shooting spree, which began on the evening of Aug. 25.

Colletta, a former bricklayer who allegedly binged on alcohol, cocaine and angel dust for days before the attacks, was taken into custody at the corner of 105th Street and Park Lane South after authorities hunted for a car matching his Cadillac's description. The authorities said he fired at drivers and pedestrians at 10 different locations throughout the borough.

The evening's fatality, Todd Upton of Long Island, was shot in the neck while his wife drove their minivan on the Cross Island Parkway near Bell Boulevard.

On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Charissa Ilardi read Hanophy excerpts from statements Colletta offered after his arrest at the 109th Precinct in Flushing, in Queens Hospital Center and in Bellevue. Greenberg declined to petition the court to set a bail amount.

In the excerpts, Colletta presented different explanations for why officers found a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol in his car, including reports that a valet attendant dropped the gun in his vehicle and that he had borrowed the weapon from "Lucifer."

After his client's arrest, Greenberg maintained that Colletta suffered from serious mental disease and defect. Colletta had been arrested a week earlier on assault charges stemming from a domestic dispute with his girlfriend, and Greenberg reported that he was a diagnosed schizophrenic. While reluctant to detail the specifics of the case he plans to make to jurors, after the Thursday proceedings Greenberg reiterated that his client's mental capacity will play into his argument.

Though Colletta didn't have any immediate family members on hand in court, he looked back toward those who gathered in the courtroom and shook his head in apparent dismay as he was led out by a bailiff. Mary Upton, Todd Upton's widow, appeared emotional and fidgety throughout the suspect's 15 minute appearance.

"I sympathize with her. I myself have driven my kids home from college with my wife," said Greenberg of Upton, who was driving her daughter to Marist College with her husband before he was struck.

In court last week, prosecutors added a 10th incident to the charges. Jeffrey Cuff, 39, of Westport, Conn., was driving on the Van Wyck Expressway when Colletta fired upon his black Audi. That incident undermines original reports that Colletta fired only at red vehicles because he believed he was being pursued by the Bloods street gang. Cuff was not injured.

Colletta had been arraigned on the charges in the criminal complaint brought against him on Aug. 29 in Bellevue, where he was undergoing psychiatric evaluation. He has remained there since.

Still in a pre trial phase, Colletta's case will next come before the court on Dec. 18. The Thursday indictment listed charges of, among others, murder in the second degree, attempted murder, assault, criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

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